Spring Gathering: Poplar Buds & Nettle

It feels a bit late to be talking about these two, but my fingers are still deep in their goodness and it feels like I was washing the sticky poplar resin form my hands just yesterday...

The season started slow with poplar buds and nettles. Both have a powerful olfactory effect on me. Poplar bud oil was once worn by an old flame of mine. So upon first whiff I am instantly reminded of him. It's changing though and I am more drawn to the thoughts of the rivers and wet places the cottonwoods grow... and where they grow, nettle never seems far away. You can smell them when the air is balmy and they'll fill your bag with a ripe skunk when you've harvested them up. I've always been rather fond of a good stink, and I sometimes find myself sticking my nose very carefully into the bag I've put them in. Green, fatty, skunky and with a hint of citrus. Yes! To my nose there exists a citrusy note in older nettle leaves.

The nettle has gone into tea for the most part. It creates a vegetal broth of sorts. When you sip it, it immediately touches some place internally that sends off all sorts of signals telling you this is nourishment. Nettle is highly nutritive, full of minerals and a lovely spring tonic. I've also been adding it to my weekly batch of chicken soup. I tried it fresh, but I prefer to add it in once it has been dried. I find it more palatable.

Magically, nettle is a jinx breaker. One that would be powerful I think. Jinx breaking with a bit of a sting to it!

I made oil from the poplar buds and left a good portion of them to dry out for incense and magical needs. Often times I think of plants for their folk magic uses first, rather than for medicine. I find they go hand in hand. Poplar is used to mend broken hearts, or foster reconciliation between two lovers or friends, to soothe strife. You'll find that magical property with a lot of sweet smelling and tasting things. Having had my heart broken by one who wore this as a perfume has been interesting in the development of my relationship with cottonwood to say the least. It truly is a great soothing balm, figuratively and literally!

golden poplar bud oil

golden poplar bud oil

The buds also make a most fantastic incense. Once dried and crushed I mixed it with red cedar heartwood to make a lovely sweetening, soothing, clearing and blessing smudge. Try it, you won't be disappointed. 

Hello Equinox & Green Things

Spring came so wildly early this year, alarmingly early. Violets in January? Yes! It's kind of crazy. Wild cherry trees have been blooming, filling the streets with white and pink snow. Catkins dangling phallically from trees. The air a mix of tree sex. What has been lacking is the scent of cool petrichor, mingling with blooming things. There have been a handful of predawn mornings, while lying in bed that I can hear and smell the rain coming down. Those are rather precious times to me. The lack of our generally incessant rains this time of year leaves one wondering, curious and slightly wary. That's how I feel anyway, and I wonder to what extent our summer will be dry and hot this year. The thought of wildfire and smoke creep into my brain...

Despite springs early arrival I have been excited about it, naturally. As the sap rises in the plants and trees and the soil moves a little more, so do I and it generates a great joy inside of me. I feel like a bear coming out from its winter den. I've been chomping at the bit to find, gather, process and make things. Poplar buds, nettles and cleavers have been my allies thus far.

Before I moved back into the city proper I had the luxury of living along a paved trail corridor with patches of relatively undisturbed land. Gathering was easy and simple. I knew where the cottonwood stands were, where the creepy ass alder swamp was, wild strawberries, roses, you name it. Now it's whole 'nother game, especially when you lack personal motorized vehicle transportation. Now it is chance, by surprise and hunting when I find what I am looking for. While I miss the ease of access and familiar places and special spots I am finding treasures, medicine and spirit hidden in the nooks and crannies of the city.

I believe that spirit is just as strong and valid in the city, as it is in the most wild and untouched places. I have seen and read a lot of dismissal of the spirit world in the city and I think that it is unwise. They are different, but equally important in my opinion.

So it's a strange and interesting adventure. Acquainting/reacquainting myself with familiar but unfamiliar territory. Making new spirit and plant friends, discovering lonely, overlooked, neglected green patches, appreciating them and befriending them. Every year I feel like I've waited for this moment my whole life, the Spring Equinox. With the sun moving into my sign Aries, my blood quickens and a strange life lust overcomes me and more than ever I feel the desire to do, do, do!

Only warmer and longer days from here on out. Making the most of it.

Umpqua Hot Springs

Was warned of cougars, arrived in utter darkness, got lost, found way again, found springs, hippies gifted candles, luxuriated in 104 degree geothermal pool while light rain flecked the night sky. Went back the next morning for pictures.

I didn't realize till after this picture was taken that there was a bottle cap on the ground. This is something I've noticed and experienced in Oregon, people don't pick up their fucking trash. Perhaps it's the proximity of being near a city. Pack in, pack out folks.

The water was, unsurprisingly, a bit metallic and sulfuric smelling. It was also quite salty.

So, slime mold. Pretty fascinating stuff. Not a plant or animal, nor a fungus! But an amoeba. Read. I discovered some yerba buena, wild strawberries and never before seen with my own eyes, western yew. I was quite elated to finally meet the tree up close and in person, sadly no picture as the lighting was horrid.

I don't get to do things like this too often, so it was a real treat. I haven't driven or owned a car in over 8 years. Public transit has suited me well over the years, but I'm getting that deep and unrelenting itch to get out of the city by my own means. Tired of being city trapped and I am set to change that. Hopefully with a vehicle of my very own (gasp!) in the next few months. I have all manner of wild crafting and exploring that needs to be done.

 

A Hello to the New Year

I don't really make resolutions around New Years. I like to set goals though, or set about to change something. I do a lot of resetting around the new moon, because that is the start of the lunar calendar. So, I suppose the New Year is a grand resetting of sorts. The ultimate fresh start. As an Aries, I do love a good new beginning... finishing something is where us Aries can fall short however!

I didn't meet a lot of my goals last year due to major life upheaval. This year though, I feel as though I am in the most perfect position to SLAY my goals and aspirations this year. And I will.

So, in no particular order...

1. Improve upon my already well established fitness.

You learn to accept ugly making faces when you lift.

About two years ago, I got a gym membership and discovered my love of iron. Maybe it's all that heady Mars ruled stuff going on in my natal chart, but I love it. I started eating better, lost fat, gained muscle and have never felt better about my body or my booty. I've gone on a few month long hiatuses and I am always brought back to lifting with a vengeance. (And this dear reader, is where you learn my dirty secret) Almost a year ago I... I say this in the faintest of whispers, gave Crossfit a try. You see, there's a Crossfit gym (note that I didn't say "box") just behind my work. I got to chatting with one of the coaches and liked that they had a bias towards strength and placed huge emphasis on form, which is very often lacking in many Crossfit places. What drew me, was Olympic lifting and the challenge of doing things that scared and intimidated me. I learned how to jump rope elegantly, how to jump onto something 20 inches high, how to move 70lbs on a barbell from the ground up to catch it in a squat over my head aka: the snatch. I digress.

Master double unders, 10 strict pushups, 1 strict pullup, 100lb snatch and improve the shit out of my clean form.

2. Do less and simplify.

I over extend myself very often. I want to do everything that catches my interest. I have, generally speaking, each digit in a pie and two irons in the fire for every digit and appendage on my body. Which, leaves me feeling spread thin and the inability to devote myself to a singular task very well. I'm stripping away a lot of things I'd like to do, but won't really serve me in the long run. Quality over quantity, honing my focus and less burn out.

3. Fully commit to my spiritual practice. No excuses.

Bone throwing on cards has been a very rewarding form of divination for me.

This has been a huge struggle for me.  I can't remember where I read this, but someone once summed up modern spiritual practice as this rare luxury we give ourselves. It shouldn't be that way. To be perfectly honest, I have placed regular practice at the bottom of my priority list. Partly out of fear, partly out of laziness. Deciding that sleeping in till 6am is better than getting up at 5am to meditate, pray and honor my spirits. It's called a practice for a reason. The fear? I fear results, I fear what I will meet and see when I go deeper. All the more reason to face it. They say you're not doing it right if you don't feel a twinge of fear crawling up your spine. That's witchcraft folks.

4. Paint and make more magic.

'nuff said. While my job does tend to nurture some creativity I lust after the days when I used to paint endlessly. When I was young it was abstract and chaotic, these days I just want to paint flowers and nature like an old lady. I have crows feet that need to be made into talismans, wild harvesting bags that need sewing, and all manner of roots, stones and bones that need to worked into something magic.

5. Herbalism School and wildcrafting.

Yes! In March I begin classes for a three year program at a local school for Traditional Western Herbalism. I've long had a fascination with plants and I have always sought to understand them both spiritually and medicinally. I live in a most fascinating and rich bioregion and the land here, well, it speaks and it is very much alive... and not even in the mundane sense. I'm really looking forward to entering a community of people who feel the same way and nerd out just as much as I do when we see something interesting growing out of a crack in the sidewalk.

So that's that. I've got my focus, my home base is secure and I am ready for battle.

May we all slay, achieve, grow and prosper in this glorious new year!

Fall Foraging & Hungry Kitchen Crow

After work one day, earlier in October, I meandered through a local trail to see what I could forage. It was a blustery day with off and on rain and intermittent clear skies. Whenever the seasons begin to make their shift, there's a sort of battle that goes on in the sky. It's an odd micro climate I live in. The temperature, wind and rain can vary quite dramatically from where I live to where my job is located, a mere 7 miles away. The buttes, small valleys, dense forest patches create pockets of strange isolated weather happenings. One of the many reasons I love it out here...

Plantain.

Rosehips.

Yarrow leaf.

I gathered up what I stumbled upon. Originally I was looking verbascum thapsus, mullein. I've always been oddly drawn to that plant and I was hoping to find some to begin forging a relationship with it. Mullein loves disturbed rocky soils and despite the fact that I was in prime mullein growing territory, I found none!  I did however find a surprising amount of young yarrow leaf shooting up and the always abundant plantain. Rosehips aplenty too.

I plan to make a healing salve with the plantain and yarrow, once dried.

Along this very same trail, I found a sun bleached crow skeleton. After months of seeing him just sit there, I finally took him home. His skull was perfectly intact as well as some wing bones. As an animist, I believe that his spirit still resides in his bones and over time, we have developed an interesting relationship. One day, I walked into the kitchen to find him exactly like this...

Maw! Maw! Feed me!

Maw! Maw! Feed me!

Silenced with chicken skin and fat. He's my kitchen table companion, often watching as I process herbs, pull cards and taking food scraps as offerings. He's always hungry and a little greedy. He is a surprisingly and both unsurprisingly communicative and active spirit to work with. One of his wing bones resides in my bone throwing set and he's always sure to make his opinions known.



Autumn Sunlight, Simple Pleasures & Brain Knots

I woke lazily and let myself sleep in today, something I do not frequently do. Usually I am up by 5:30, preparing myself for my day. When I get days off, sometimes I don't know what to do with myself. It's kind of a problem. I'm so used to running around, being busy, moving from one task to the next, that when I am faced with the luxury of free time I find my mind racing with possibility, yet physically frozen with what I should do first or what I should do at all. I want to do everything all at once and everything seems so important. So, I started with what I do every morning: coffee, cards, bones and writing.

Morning, slight frustration moving against a current, handle it gracefully. Afternoon, get outside, move and observe, connect with plants. Give something your total focus and study. Evening, tending to spiritual responsibilities. A rewarding burden!

Morning, slight frustration moving against a current, handle it gracefully. Afternoon, get outside, move and observe, connect with plants. Give something your total focus and study. Evening, tending to spiritual responsibilities. A rewarding burden!

After my reading I showered. Steam mingled with the scent of fresh outside air through my bath tub window, coconut, roses and frankincense from my body scrub. That smell, steamy shower and crisp fall air together are perfection. The sun in all its late morning glory busted through the clouds. Faded and golden, it hit me in the face. Bliss. Singular moments like that are magical and transporting. So I stood there for a while. Nothing is quite as trance inducing as seeing the sun shine through your eyelids. It's like a vision of an endless orange-red sea.

My plants and I rejoiced that the sun came out. Together we chased the sun beams through the house like cats do. At 3:30pm, the sun begins quickly fading and the gloaming returns.

I found myself struggling to be ok with not having much to do with my day. I had even planned this. I fantasied of how wonderful and relaxing time off would be, and when I receive it it's almost a shock to the system! It's weird, teaching yourself how to slow down. How to be ok with just sitting and chilling. One of my recently made goals was to give myself more time off from work. It takes space creation and battery recharging to coax out those creative juices and to get them flowing. I battle with the guilt of time off work and the stress it sometimes creates. Learning how to silence that voice always screaming the back of my mind, "you're falling behind! You're falling behind!" I know that I will eventually strike a balance. Meditation truly helps and I need to do more of it.

And that is what I will settle into this evening. Cooking food, books and steadily smoothing out those brain knots.

city sunsets.

city sunsets.

Arrival of Darkness & The Hibernating Bear

Oregon coast.

October started off ridiculously glorious, almost alarmingly glorious, here in my city. Bright warm days, golden sun, sun glasses, crop tops and shorts still an option. Warm weekends spent in debaucherous revelry were snatched away from me too quickly. But, all good and beautiful things do inevitably come to an end.

The rains came alright though, they came just fine. When the rains don't come, or they're late it worries me. Mt. Hood sat all greyish for weeks... and then boom! The next day he was covered in a white blanket. It poured heavy those last few weeks of October and through this early November. A second spring as I like to call it. Everything becomes green again after the dryness of summer, moisture loving plants come back to life...

And then darkness descends. 4pm sunsets, living in a perpetual state of gloaming and artificial light when it's too dark too see in your home. I am exalted in the sun, it gives me a joy I can't describe. But, it's an odd comfort this season and despite my moaning and groaning, I take full advantage of what it has to offer: incubation, hibernation, introspection.

Wildwood and bone reading.

The Bear has been a figure in my dreams, in my divination, in the ashes of burned candles and wax. The mother with her offspring lurks in the forests of my dreamscapes... I stopped for a moment in a book store not too long ago, to take a peek into Ted Andrews book Animal Speak. He wrote of how the female bear goes to her den for the winter, the seed that she carries is nurtured in the darkness and in the spring, she emerges proudly with what she cultivated in incubation. This is what Bear is encouraging me to do, I believe. I listen.

My den is outfitted, my work has presented itself to me and I shall begin. Through dreams, through trance and speaking with spirit. The work never ends and it is always beginning.